April 6, 2012 / 12:40 AM / in 6 years

"Bully" film rating changed for younger audiences

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The filmmaker and studio behind documentary “Bully” on Thursday won their battle to have the movie’s rating lowered, allowing kids as young as 13 years-old to see it.

Director Lee Hirsch said he was able to keep a key scene in the anti-bullying film for which he lobbied hard, but he edited out three uses of one certain word to appease the group that rates movies based on language, sex, violence and other content.

“I‘m just glad that we held strong. I think this is a great resolution,” Hirsch told Reuters about his and distributor The Weinstein Co.’s battle with the Motion Picture Association (MPAA) of America’s ratings board.

“We are getting so much interest to see the film, and this makes it much easier for schools to get behind it.”

The documentary, which follows five kids and families who have been impacted by bullying, opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend to a strong $23,000 per screen average at box offices, and the new “PG-13” rating from the MPAA should widen its audience appeal when it expands across the United States on April 13.

Weinstein Co. marketing chief Stephen Bruno said many church groups, school groups and youth organizations had been inquiring about the movie’s content, and he hoped that more of them now come to see the film.

The MPAA ranks movies to give audiences an idea of the content within any given film. Initially it had given “Bully” an “R” rating meaning anyone under 17-years-old must be accompanied by an adult when seeing the film.

Their decision was based on the use of one certain curse word that is used six times in the movie. Usage of that particular word more than once results in an “R”.

Hirsch and Weinstein initially lobbied the MPAA‘S ratings board to change its mind, arguing that it will exclude the very people on whom it would have the most impact, kids. But Hirsch refused to change his movie, and the MPAA refused to budge, too.

Last weekend, it went out unrated, but even that distinction limits a movie’s play in some theaters and to some groups.

A compromise was reached when Hirsch agreed to edit out three uses of the particular word, and the MPAA agreed to allow one key scene in which one of the film’s subjects is beaten on a school bus and the word is used three times.

“We retained the central scene and all three (words) are intact. The whole scene is intact and that ... was a great victory for me,” Hirsch said.

Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Jill Serjeant

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